High School Art Lesson on Identifying & Drawing Shapes

High School Art Lesson on Identifying & Drawing Shapes
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Unfortunately, drawing a scene or object can be rather daunting for students who have spent the day using their left brains (the logical, language-oriented side). Turning off the part of the brain that has a name for everything helps students break reference material down into basic shapes, which gives them the opportunity to draw without fear of making mistakes.

Objective: Students will use the basic artistic skill of identifying and reproducing shapes to complete accurate drawings.


  • Drawing paper
  • Copied reference photos for students
  • Large copied reference photo for teacher
  • Pencils or charcoal

Lesson Procedure:

Step One: Give students reference photos to study and ask students what they see in the photos. Students will probably identify objects by their names (boats, people, flowers, etc).

Step Two: Using a large copy of a reference photo posted for all students to see, teacher will ask students to to focus on one object in the photo. While focusing on that object, students will identify the shapes they see within that object as teacher sketches basic shapes on the photo to demonstrate (for example, a photo of a boat would likely have triangles if it has sails, cylinders if it has masts, etc.)

Step Three: Ask students to study their own photos and use their “artist eyes” or right brains to pick out shapes. This means that instead of seeing, for example, a baseball bat and a ball, students should see a cylinder and a sphere. Tell students they are only to refer to shapes when describing the objects in their photos. Students will then sketch these shapes directly on the photos to help them break the objects down for the eye to see as an arrangement of shapes.

Step Four: Using their photos with shape arrangements sketched in, students will take fresh sheets of paper and draw the shape arrangements anew. Once students feel comfortable with the process, they can challenge themselves to try a new photo, skipping the step of drawing shapes on the photo and working directly on their blank papers. After sketching, students can shade their shapes to create solid figures.

Assessment: Separate photos and drawings, and post the photos around the room. Collect drawings and redistribute them to students, making sure no one gets his or own paper. Students will take the drawings and attempt to match them to the photos based on the shape arrangements they see. Give students their points for the activity once their drawings have been reunited with the photos.

Encourage students to use their “artist eyes” as they walk around the rest of the day– what shapes do they see as they move through the world?